Two of our domestic volunteers, Rachel Roa and Bridget Higginbotham, recently visited the new Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial here in Washington, D.C. Bridget offers a reflection on their experience. 

Photo by Bridget Higginbotham

One benefit to volunteering is D.C. is that I am constantly surrounded by inspiration. From the beautifully spiritual people I’ve met through FMS, to the monuments and memorials dedicated to our nation’s leaders and thinkers, my faith and I are forever being affirmed yet challenged at the same time. It’s an extremely gratifying growth experience.

The MLK memorial is one of the most motivational places that I have visited since beginning my year of service in October (another great one was the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, only a few yards away.)

Like so many Americans, I was familiar with King “I Have A Dream” speech. The memorial is created to visualize a line toward the end that said, “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”
Photo by Bridget Higginbotham

King’s image has been carved into a huge piece of rock dragged out of a looming mountain he has physically become a stone of hope cut from a mountain of despair. The Lincoln Memorial is behind him just as it was one he gave his famous speech and from across the tidal basin he faces the Jefferson Memorial.

The designers intended that the when people visited King’s memorial, they would learn something about King.The 450-foot granite Inscription Wall is engraved with fourteen of King’s most notable quotes from other speeches, and these brief yet powerful and passionate messages changed my perspective of King. He work was not limited to the Civil Rights Movement in America. He wanted peace and justice for everyone. He wanted to change the world.

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three emails a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.” -Norway, 1964

 Here are Rachel and I with the last of King’s quotes. It says, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” It was part of his last sermon delivered in Washington, DC at the National Cathedral in 1968, only four days before his assassination.

So many of King’s quotes resonated with me because they aligned with the Franciscan and mission values I am learning at FMS.

This one reminds me of how our missioners are taught to respect the culture and beliefs of the people they serve.

“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” – Georgia, 1967

This one reminds me not only of my year of service, but of our missioner’s commitment to lifelong mission in North America. By sharing their experiences on mission their new heightened understanding of “global solidarity” and our unity as one people on this earth, they have the power to change their community.

“Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live in.” – District of Columbia, 1959

I hope that as we celebrate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we can all commit ourselves to live out his powerful, inspirational words.